“Get a paying job! Pursue a career! Fulfill yourselves!”
Radical feminists are urging women to abandon their traditional role and “do something significant” in the world.
Many women scoff at such an idea. But some are sympathetic and find themselves feeling uneasy with their role as wife and mother. Others are eager to carry the torch. They feel resentful, offended, put-upon. Run-away wives are slamming the doors on husbands and children in alarming numbers.
Searching the scriptures will help Latter-day Saint women gain a perspective and evaluate the attitudes of the world.
The whole purpose of life pertains to the importance of people. The Lord declared that his work and glory was “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.) Woman’s role in that plan is an exalted one and appears to include five major areas: creator, helpmate, homemaker, teacher, and exemplar.
In the very beginning, God created Adam and Eve because “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:11.)
One of the commandments given to Adam and Eve in the Garden was to “multiply, and replenish the earth.” (Gen. 1:28.)
Accordingly, after the Fall, “Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth. …” Eve heard Adam’s pronouncements with a joyful heart and said: “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed. …” (Moses 5:10–11.)
She recognized woman’s divine role in the plan of salvation and eternal life for man. She bore Adam’s children. She was also a helpmate and “did labor with him.” (Moses 5:1.)
Sariah, who followed her husband Lehi into the wilderness, is another example, as is Esther, who was devoted to King Ahasuerus and respected his position as king and husband. According to law, no one entered the king’s presence, not even Esther, except on command. On one occasion she found it necessary to disobey the law in order to save her people, but she did so only after fasting without food or drink for three days, then honoring her husband by preparing a banquet for him.
The Lord referred to Emma Smith, the wife of the Prophet, as “an elect lady” whom he had called. The office of her calling, he said, was to “comfort” Joseph “in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness.” She was advised to accompany him and help him when needed. Specific duties were also defined. She was to act as scribe, if necessary, and, under his direction, to “expound scriptures, and to exhort the church.” She was to make a selection of sacred hymns, and to give her time to “writing, and to learning much,” along with her household duties. (See D&C 25.)
The scriptures seem to indicate that happiness is being what we ought to be and doing what we ought to do. Still there are times when we rebel and complain about our responsibilities to “spin, and toil, and work” (Mosiah 10:5), and allow our children to “transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another …” (Mosiah 4:14). We sometimes find no delight, as did Dorcas, in providing coats and garments for widows, and in doing “good works.” (Acts 9:36.)
Few of us live our lives without some anger, some resentment, some disappointment. Emma Smith, for example, was admonished to “murmur not,” but let her soul “delight in [her] husband.” Then the Lord went on to say, “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come.” He concluded with the counsel that “this is my voice unto all.” (D&C 25.)
Paul pointed out the opportunities for love and service that accompany us in our advancing years: Aged women should “be in behaviour as becometh holiness, … teachers of good things.” He urged them to “teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children; To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God not be blasphemed.” (Titus 2:3–5.)
Being what we ought to be, in our God-given role, and doing what we ought to do—these open the door to ultimate, everlasting joy, because “all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.” (2 Ne. 2:24.)
Man has been appointed leader: woman his partner, his helpmate, his glory. God holds woman in high esteem. Her position is an honored one. As one writer has said, she “rises to her greatest height within the walls of her own home.” (Alice M. Graves.)
And as creator, helpmate, homemaker, teacher, and exemplar, her “influence can bless a community or a nation.” (President Harold B. Lee.)